Unlawful to Practice

Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 12:36 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “His Tender Mercies.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 16:16-34 (NIV).

Before the Magistrates (vv. 16-21)

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

It is already unlawful to practice the Christian faith, as Jesus taught it, in many countries throughout the world, whether or not that law is actually on the books. And, it is becoming unlawful to do so in America, too. How do I know this? I know this because of the words that our leaders are speaking to the people, and I know it because of the witness of the Holy Spirit within me who gives me understanding to see what these leaders are saying.

For instance, ever since Obama took office, he has made no secret of the fact that he and America are partnering with many other nations across the globe to fight religious extremism. And, he isn’t just talking about people who commit horrible crimes against humanity all in the name of religion, either. Quoting from the vision statement of the UNAOC:

The UN Alliance of Civilizations works toward a more peaceful, more socially inclusive world, by building mutual respect among peoples of different cultural and religious identities, and highlighting the will of the world’s majority to reject extremism and embrace diversity.

The UN, Obama, Pope Francis, the mayor of Akron, Ohio (where I live) and Donald Trump, et al, are all giving the same (or similar) message as one another. The message is loud and clear that we must remove from the earth (or from our nation) all which divides us as the people of the world; that our differences must not define us, for if they do, then that is what sows hatred and conflict. They speak much against individualism, exclusion, differences, division and disagreements. These, they believe, must all come to an end.

They are calling for the people of the world, including in America, to have shared and common ground, goals, resolve, cooperation, integration, purpose and tolerance (permissive indulgence), and, in America, for all of us to “speak with one voice and one heart” (Donald Trump quoting Abe Lincoln). Their goal is purportedly world peace, where all the people of the world live together in harmony, regardless of religion or lifestyle choice.

Yet, Jesus said that he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. He came to turn family members, one against another (See: Matt. 10). What he meant by this is if we follow him, in the way in which he taught us to follow him, the world will hate us, and they will reject us. And yet, if we love the people of this world more than we love him, then we are not worthy of him, he said. And, if we do not take up our cross daily and follow him, we are not worthy of him, he said. In other words, Jesus called us out of the world. He called us to be holy – separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming like Christ. So, we are not supposed to be united with the world in harmony, having one mind, heart and purpose with them.

From this, we should know that we are going to be facing serious religious persecution, if we are not already, if we do not compromise our faith in Jesus Christ in order to conform to and cooperate with the international community in breaking down all which divides us so that we can live in a more peaceful and socially inclusive world where all the people of the world, regardless of religion or lifestyle join hands and hearts and sing Kumbaya.

Praying and Singing (vv. 22-28)

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

Satan hates those who are followers of Jesus Christ, because we do not conform to his ways, and we work against him when we tell people about Jesus and they are set free from their slavery to sin (from their demons). He wants to hold people in bondage to sin so they will not serve Jesus Christ, but so they will serve him and do his bidding, instead. He wants the world to all come together in harmony (a false peace), and to break down all which divides us, because then the gospel of Jesus Christ will not be preached, and people will not be saved, and everyone will all be the same. But, they will all go to hell, too, because they have not believed in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of their lives, for they loved their own lives more than they loved Jesus.

But, when they hate us and they persecute us, which they will, we must know that greater is He who lives within us than he who lives in the world. We must believe that our God is completely sovereign and absolutely in control over all that he has made. He is allowing this for a purpose, and it is to make us holy, to revive his wayward church, to spread the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth, and so many will be saved before the day when he returns for his bride. So, we must not let it undo us. We must keep on keeping on sharing Christ and his gospel of salvation, and we must remain steadfast in faith and faithful in purpose and stand strong on the truth of God’s word and against Satan’s evil schemes against us. And, we must keep on singing, and not be silent, even if they take our lives.

What Must I Do? (vv. 29-34)

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Amen! Hallelujah! God is faithful! He will take what Satan meant for evil and he will turn it around for good. If we remain faithful to our Lord, even in the face of great opposition and persecution, and we keep on loving God and the people of this world, and we don’t retaliate, but we live in perfect peace with our Lord and we share his joy and his salvation with others, I believe God will use it to bring people to Jesus Christ. So, hang in there. Don’t let what others do or say get you down. Rejoice in the Lord and in his mighty strength, and shout out his message of salvation for all to hear.

His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014

Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.

Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.

Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.

What is Faith?

Monday, November 28, 2016, 9:26 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Ear to Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 14:8-15 (NIV).

He Saw He Had Faith (vv. 8-10)

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

What do you suppose Paul saw in this man that assured him this man had the faith to be healed? He must have had a look of expectation in his eyes, in his facial expression, and in his body language. The man had been listening to Paul as he preached the good news about Jesus. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had been convicting the man’s heart as Paul preached, and the man was already responding in his heart to the Spirit’s voice, and so Paul could see this in his eyes, and in his countenance, as well. We don’t know for sure, but something about the man told Paul that this man had faith.

Thinking about what this man’s faith looked like then brought me to wondering what our faith looks like when we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. What would tell someone else that we have genuine faith in Christ? What about us should be different? In what ways should we stand out to other people as those who are believers in Jesus in contrast to those who are not believers? And, would we be able to sustain the character? If someone demanded evidence by our actions that we truly have faith, what would that evidence be? For the lame man, he jumped on his feet, and he began to walk. That is pretty solid evidence, I would say.

And, that brings me to my opening question: What is faith? I hear so many people talk about believing in Jesus, but the way they describe it, it sounds like a one-time emotional decision made at an altar, or words they repeated after someone else in saying a prayer, or an intellectual assent to who Jesus is, to why he died, and a mental acceptance that he came to save us from our sins and to offer us forgiveness. But, is that what the Bible teaches?

This man’s heart response to the hope he was given that he could be healed was physically obvious, and it was followed up with action, which then proved his faith to be genuine. Is that the way it works with saving faith? I believe it does.

Making Idols of Men (vv. 11-13)

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

Sometimes people’s response to the preaching of the gospel, or to the preaching of a false gospel, is to fall in love, in a sense, with the one who brought them the good news, rather than falling in love with Jesus. The preacher they can physically see, and physically interact with, and they can witness his (or her) personality. Thus, they may find themselves more drawn to the man (or woman) than to God. When someone is kind to us or helps us in some way, or does something miraculous in our lives, we may misdirect our praise and admiration to human beings, who are only instruments of God, if they are his true messengers, and we may begin to follow them instead of following Jesus. So, we need to guard against this.

In today’s modern church, many people are following men as idols rather than following Jesus. They are listening more to the words of humans, rather than to the words of God, or else they are expecting humans to interpret God’s words for them, rather than going directly to the source and hearing from God themselves. This is nothing new, though. They had the same problem in the early church. Yet, today, I think it is even a greater problem because many pastors have become entertainers who try to win people over through their captivating personalities, their charm and their humor. They draw the people to themselves often instead of drawing them to Christ. So, we need to make sure we not putting humans above or in place of God.

Turn from Worthless Things (vv. 14-15)

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

Going back to the question of “What is faith?”, notice with me here that when Paul and Barnabas brought the people the “good news,” they told them to turn from these worthless things to the living God. This is what it means to have faith, i.e. it means to have our blinded eyes opened, and to be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Acts 26:16-18).

In Romans 6 Paul described faith in Jesus Christ in these terms: We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness. Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

And, in Romans 8 he described faith in this way: God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. We have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

And, in Ephesians 4 he described faith in Jesus in this way: Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (See: Eph. 4:17-24).

Jesus said the same thing. He said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins), but if we lose our lives for Christ (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). He also said that his sheep listen to him, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him (Jn. 10).

So, you see, faith in Jesus Christ is not just words we say or a mere acceptance of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins, but true faith in Jesus means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life; and that we die to sin and live to righteousness. This is why Jesus died, that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15).

Give Ear to Jesus / An Original Work
Based off Isaiah 55 / February 16, 2016

Call on your Savior.
Seek the Lord while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way;
Turn to the Lord.
God will have mercy.
He’ll forgive you of your sin.
He will freely pardon you
And give peace within.
Turn from your sin, follow Jesus,
Be cleansed from sin.

Give ear to Jesus.
Come to Him. Your soul will live.
Listen to Him speaking to you:
“Eat what is good.”
If you are thirsty,
Come to Jesus, drink from Him.
Drink His Spirit given to you.
Be born again.
Listen to Him. Do what He says.
Rejoice in Him.

God’s Word, eternal,
Will achieve what He desires.
He is willing none should perish,
Saved by His blood.
Share now the gospel.
Jesus died so we’d go free.
Walk in vict’ry,
Free from your sin, eternally.
Die to sin, and live to Jesus.
In Him believe.

To the Ends of the Earth

Sunday, November 27, 2016, 6:57 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 13:44-14:7 (ESV).

Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the Holy Spirit to the work to which God had called them. They were in the city of Pisidian Antioch, where they had shared the gospel with the people at the synagogue the week prior. The people had invited them to come back the next week, so they were back. Yet, where God is blessing, and people are open to hearing the gospel of salvation preached, and where people are turning their hearts to Jesus Christ in faith, Satan is also at work trying to put doubts in the people’s minds.

They Brought Salvation (13:44-48)

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

In my world today, here in America, we have much opposition to the full gospel message, as well. And, a lot of that opposition is coming from within the institutional church and from within the government, even from those who claim to have faith in Jesus Christ.

It began in the institutional church, among evangelical Christians. From high levels of power and authority within church denominations it trickled down to individual congregations across denominations, which was amazing in and of itself. Soon, many Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, &/or C&MA churches, etc., all began teaching the same propaganda. Their visions for their congregations began to sound like carbon copies of one another, but it wasn’t because their visions were all coming from the Holy Spirit, but because they were coming from man, and from human marketing schemes and business techniques on how to build big churches (i.e. businesses).

Pastors who had been preaching the full gospel message were now avoiding words such as “sin,” “repentance,” “obedience,” and “judgment.” They were no longer teaching walking in the fear of the Lord. Now God was being presented as our good buddy or like a doting grandfather in the sky there to grant our every request, while we were being taught that God requires absolutely nothing of us – no repentance, no submission to the cross, no obedience, and no surrender to God’s will for our lives. There was no more death to sin and self; no more preaching on holiness, righteousness, and walking in the Spirit as opposed to walking according to our sinful flesh. God’s grace simply became a get-out-of-jail-free card to escape hell, if hell was even mentioned, and it became a free ride into heaven based on a lie.

In order to discredit the full gospel message, as Jesus taught it, and as his NT apostles taught it, they had to narrow the gospel down to very few scriptures, largely taken out of context, which they felt supported their theology, while they ignored the bulk of teaching in scripture related to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They diluted the gospel in order to make it more attractive, appealing and acceptable to the world, because part of their business and marketing techniques and plans for building their businesses was to do what was necessary to draw into the “church” large crowds of people from the world, and to make the “church” comfortable so the world would “feel at home” there and so they would come back.

They also, in order to promote and convince people to follow their false grace gospel, had to go on an all-out attack against the full gospel message and its messengers by convincing their listeners that “repentance,” “submission,” “obedience,” and even “holiness” and “righteousness” were not necessary, because they classified them all under “works-based” salvation. And, so, if you teach the full (undiluted) gospel, you are tagged as one who is teaching “works-based” salvation, and not salvation by grace alone. They have so convinced so many professing Christians of this that they are being trained to turn a deaf ear when you begin to teach repentance, obedience, and the like. And, yet, we must continue to teach people the truth of the gospel, because their eternity depends on it.

They Spread the Word (13:49-52)

And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

So, what is the “word of the Lord” the apostles taught? Paul taught belief in Jesus means we died to sin. Our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Thus, we are to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. We are no longer to offer our bodies to sin, but we are to offer ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness. Sin should no longer be our master. When we are set free from sin, we are to be slaves to God. The benefit we reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

Paul also taught that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk no longer according to the flesh, but who walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit. He said that we have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature to live according to it. “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, he taught that Jesus died that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us, and that Jesus became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:15, 21). True salvation results in a change of heart, mind, attitude, actions and behavior (lifestyle).

Paul also taught that coming to Christ means we put off our old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, we are made new in the attitude of our minds (repentance), and we put on the new self, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24). He taught not that God’s grace was free license to continue in sin, but that it teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s soon return (Tit. 2:11-14). As well, Peter taught that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God while we walk (conduct our lives) in the darkness (sin), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6).

And, when we teach what the apostles taught, which was also what Jesus taught, we, too, will be hated and persecuted, spoken evil against, falsely accused, kicked out of institutional churches, rebuked harshly, and be forsaken, forgotten, despised, ostracized, rejected, etc. But, we can’t let it get to us. If they reject the message, just share it with someone else who will listen. Not everyone has ears that are stopped up and eyes that refuse to see the truth, though many do these days.

They Spoke Boldly for Jesus (14:1-7)

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.

I love this! It says that the unbelievers stirred up people (who might have otherwise listened and believed), and they poisoned their minds against the truth. And, that is exactly what is happening today, in spades, i.e. to a very high degree! But, that is not the part I love, obviously. It is that the apostles, despite this opposition, remained for a “long time, speaking boldly for the Lord.” Awesome! Sometimes the Lord has us shake the dust off our feet and move on to someplace else, when we face great opposition, and other times he has us remain right where we are and stand strong in our fight and keep on preaching the truth, even against great opposition. So, we need wisdom from above to know when to leave and when to remain.

Those who opposed Jesus the strongest were the leaders in the temple, much like our pastors today. Yet, the Jews had their own form of government, so these leaders often served in positions of governmental rule, as well, such as in the Sanhedrin, which was a ruling council of the Jews. And, we, too, will face much opposition from leaders within the church as well as from governmental officials, many of whom also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, at least here in America they do.

And, now it isn’t that they are just diluting the gospel, to make it more appealing to the world, but now they are pushing a one-world government and one-world religion. The message being pushed by these leaders, across the globe, is that we need to break down everything which divides us as the people of the world, and we need to be one united people, with one voice and one heart, and with a shared purpose and a common resolve. And, guess who has joined in on this chorus? Yes, it is our president-elect, Donald Trump, who had been promoting himself as an outsider, and one who was anti-establishment, and who was going to change things in Washington. He, too, is singing the same song. And, the song is against Christians. So, get ready for some serious persecution of Christians here in America.

All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.

When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.

Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.

Listen to Him

Saturday, November 26, 2016, 10:19 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Ear to Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 13 (Select vv. ESV).

The Holy Spirit set Paul (formerly Saul) and Barnabas apart for the work to which God had called them. In Pisidian Antioch, on the Jewish Sabbath Day, they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the synagogue rulers gave them the opportunity, if they had a message of encouragement for the people, to speak. So, Paul spoke. He began his speech with some Jewish history, beginning with the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt, God’s deliverance of them out of slavery, and their rebellion for 40 years in the desert. And, when he got down to David, who was a king of Israel, he told the people that it was from David’s descendants that God brought to Israel their Savior Jesus, just as God had promised.

A Savior, Jesus (vv. 23b-25)

“God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and he was God. He was with God in the beginning, and through him all things were made which were made, i.e. he existed always as God, and he is our creator (See: John 1:1-34). Yet, he left his throne in heaven, came to earth, and was born as a human male, conceived of the Holy Spirit, with a human mother (Mary). He grew up and became a man. At around age 30 he began his earthly ministry. Prior to this the Lord sent John the Baptist, who had also been prophesied about in the Old Testament, to be his forerunner, to prepare the people’s hearts for him. When Jesus then entered on the scene, John gave witness to who he was, and that now Jesus was to become greater, and John was to become less.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, which covered a span of about three years, I believe, he preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins, he taught obedience as proof of genuine faith and love for God, he confronted sin in sinful human beings, and warned of divine judgment, yet promised hope, healing, deliverance and eternal life with God for the repentant and the obedient. As well, he taught that his followers must deny self, die daily to sin and self, and follow (obey) him (Lu. 9:23-25). If anyone was unwilling to give up his life for Christ, then he could not be one of Jesus’ disciples.

Following Jesus Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness, which is what he taught his followers, and it is what his apostles then also taught the people (1 Pet. 2:24). They did not teach these feel-good sugar-coated messages that so many false apostles of Christ are preaching today, who are leaving people dead in their sins without true hope of salvation and eternal life with God. Yet, Jesus was real clear in what he taught. If we want to be one of his followers, we must turn away from our lifestyles of sin, follow our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives, and make him truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins), but if we lose our lives (die to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25).

The Message of Salvation (vv. 26-33a)

“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.

When Jesus walked the face of this earth, during the time of his earthly ministry, he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, delivered from demons, comforted the sorrowful, and encouraged the timid and those humble of heart. If that is all he did, he probably would have been better received, though the religious leaders often harassed him about healing on the Sabbath, although they themselves would rescue a sheep on the Sabbath or would circumcise a child on the Sabbath, so they were hypocritical in their objections to him healing people on the Sabbath.

But, he also called a spade a spade, i.e. he called things as they were, and he didn’t sugar-coat anything. Depending on who he was talking to, he might have done so gently or more firmly, i.e. he was much more direct and firm with the Pharisees, because they knew the scriptures, and they taught the scriptures, and because of their hypocrisy, because they were all too concerned with how things looked on the outside while inside they were full of wickedness. Not only that, but they took advantage of those weaker than them, and they didn’t show love, mercy and kindness, but held to a strict observance of external regulations while they had stubborn and rebellious hearts which refused to recognize Jesus for who he was – their Messiah.

So, they hated Jesus because he didn’t think and act like them, and because he didn’t follow all their traditions and man-made rules, and external regulations. They despised him because he told them the truth about what was in their hearts, that they were sinners who needed to be saved from their sins. They were jealous of him, too, and his popularity among the people, and they were threatened by him, because they feared that their own positions of power and authority might go away if more and more people followed Jesus. They were indignant against him, as well, because he claimed to be their Savior, their Lord, their Messiah and their God. And, so they plotted and carried out his death on a cross, but this was to fulfill scripture, that the Christ must die, be buried, and rise again (1 Co. 15:3-4).

Freedom from Sin (vv. 38-41)

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:

“‘Look, you scoffers,
be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

When Jesus died, he who knew no sin became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). So, when he died our sins also were put to death and buried with him. Yet, he rose triumphant over death, hell, Satan and sin on our behalf. So, when we truly come to faith in Jesus Christ, to be Lord and Savior of our lives, of the Spirit of God, we are thus crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23). The old has gone. The new has come. Where once our desire was to please our sinful nature, now our desire is to please God with our lives in all that we do. Now we walk according to the Spirit, and no longer conduct our lives (in lifestyle) according to our sinful nature (flesh), to fulfill its desires (See: Ro. 8:1-14; Tit. 2:11-14).

This is not saying that we are sinless or that we never sin again after we receive Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior (See: 1 Jn. 2:1). But, it should mean that our lifestyle is transformed of the Spirit of God away from sin to walking in Christ’s righteousness and holiness – all in the power and working of His Spirit within us, as we cooperate with that work of grace.

The Bible is real clear, that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). If we walk according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25). God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

Yet, along with this promise of forgiveness of sins to the repentant and obedient, i.e. to the believer in Jesus, is a divine warning to the scoffers (unbelievers). The warning quoted here in Acts 13:41 is found in the Old Testament, in Habakkuk 1:5. It is a warning of divine judgment. If they persisted in unbelief, and in their wickedness, the promise of forgiveness of sins would not be theirs, but only a fearful expectation of divine judgment. Yet, this also applies to those who make a profession only of Christ as Savior, but who are still walking in darkness, and not according to the Spirit.

God is sending against this world the beast (one-world totalitarian government), the false prophet (false one-world religion) and the dragon (Satan). Yet, through this time of judgment, many wayward Christians will be revived, the gospel will go forth to the ends of the world, and many will trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before Jesus returns. Even the righteous will be affected by this, as great persecution against the saints of God is all part of God’s divine judgment on this world he has made. Yet, those who are walking in Christ’s righteousness have the hope of heaven when they die, whereas the unbeliever, which includes those who give lip service only to God, only have divine judgment and eternity in hell in their future. So, listen to what God (Jesus) says, and obey him today.

Give Ear to Jesus / An Original Work
Based off Isaiah 55 / February 16, 2016

Call on your Savior.
Seek the Lord while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way;
Turn to the Lord.
God will have mercy.
He’ll forgive you of your sin.
He will freely pardon you
And give peace within.
Turn from your sin, follow Jesus,
Be cleansed from sin.

Give ear to Jesus.
Come to Him. Your soul will live.
Listen to Him speaking to you:
“Eat what is good.”
If you are thirsty,
Come to Jesus, drink from Him.
Drink His Spirit given to you.
Be born again.
Listen to Him. Do what He says.
Rejoice in Him.

God’s Word, eternal,
Will achieve what He desires.
He is willing none should perish,
Saved by His blood.
Share now the gospel.
Jesus died so we’d go free.
Walk in vict’ry,
Free from your sin, eternally.
Die to sin, and live to Jesus.
In Him believe.

Overcoming Prejudice

Friday, November 25, 2016, 8:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 10 (Select vv. NIV).

Surely Not! (Summary vv. 1-33)

Cornelius and his family were devout and God-fearing, but they were Gentiles, with whom Jews did not associate. One day, God gave Cornelius a vision of an angel of God who then spoke to him. God had honored Cornelius’ prayers and his gifts to the poor, so God had him send men to Simon Peter, so that they would bring Peter back with them. So, Cornelius obeyed, and he did what the angel of God told him to do.

While the men were on their way to Peter, God gave Peter a vision, which was to prepare him for these men and for his journey to meet Cornelius and his family, friends and neighbors. In the vision the Lord presented Peter with something like a sheet, coming down from heaven, containing all kinds of animals, reptiles and birds. A voice from heaven told Peter to eat, but he refused, because Jewish law did not allow for him to eat what was considered to be impure or unclean. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,” responded the voice from heaven. This happened three times, and then the sheet was taken back to heaven.

While Peter pondered the meaning of the vision, the men sent from Cornelius showed up at the door to the house where Peter was staying. The Spirit of God told Peter not to hesitate going with the men, for God (Jesus, the Spirit) had sent them. So, Peter invited them into the home where he was staying, and the next day he went with the men to Cornelius.

When he arrived at Cornelius’ house, he found a large gathering of people, comprised of Cornelius’ relatives and close friends. Peter cut to the chase. He reminded the people that it was against Jewish law to associate with Gentiles. But, then he told them that God had shown him that he should not call anyone impure or unclean. Then, Peter inquired as to why he was sent for, and Cornelius responded by telling Peter about his visit from the angel from God. Then, he said, “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

No Favoritism (vv. 34-35)

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

The law of the Jews forbade them from associating with Gentiles, but was that what God intended? I don’t believe so. The intention of the law of Moses was that the Jews, who were God’s chosen people at that time, would live lives separate (unlike, different) from the world, so that they would not take on the pattern of the world and become idolatrous. So, they were not to intermarry between faiths, nor were they to enter into unholy alliances with unbelievers. So, what about us, God’s people today, i.e. Christians? We have the same instructions given to us to not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers and to not love the world or to take on the pattern of the world (See: 2 Co. 6:14-18; Ro. 12:1-2; Jn. 15:19). And, yet we are told not to associate with those who profess Christ as Savior but who are living sinful lifestyles, and who are unwilling to repent of their sins (1 Co. 5:9-11).

We are instructed, though, that we are to go into all the world to preach the gospel, and to make disciples (of Christ) of people of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15). We are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that WHOEVER believes (present tense) in him has eternal life (Jn. 3:16). Jesus is the Savior of the world (Jn. 4:42). We are not to entirely remove ourselves from unbelievers or to cease to associate with them (1 Co. 5:9-11). And, yet this must be combined together with the teaching on not being unequally yoked together with unbelievers in close, intimate associations.

In other words, there is a balance in between not associating at all with the people of the world, and thus not having any opportunity to share Christ with them, and fully associating ourselves with unbelievers in close, intimate associations (friendships, marriage, business) to where we end up taking on the values, philosophies, thoughts, attitudes and behaviors of the world. These associations are not just in person, but via TV, the internet, movies, music, games, et al. In other words, we are not to go live in a monastery and totally disconnect ourselves from the world, for we are called to be lights in the world, but we are not to join in with the world, face-to-face, or virtually, in close association to where we take on the pattern of the world.

So, the only biblical basis for not associating with people at all is that of not associating (mixing, hanging out) with professing Christians who are living in sin, and who are unwilling to repent. And, limited associations are only on the basis of not having close, intimate (bonding) relations with unbelievers so that we don’t unite with them in their ungodly ways, and become idolaters with them. Basically, any associations which would or could have the potential to lead us to sin against God are bad for us. And, associations with people of the world should always have a goal in mind of leading them to faith in Jesus Christ, i.e. to be a light to them of the gospel of Christ.

The Good News (vv. 36-43)

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Because Peter listened to the Lord, and he overcame his (learned) prejudice, God was able to use him in the lives of those not like him. And, this is where we need to be, too. So many of us have ingrained prejudices which we learned from our parents, or which we picked up over the years from life’s experiences, some of them bad, and these have helped to shape our thinking and our outlook and our views of others who are not like us. And, this has led some of us to not associate at all with certain types or groups of people, and this is wrong! We are not to accept sin, mind you, but we should not be afraid to reach out to people who are different from us and to show them the love of Jesus, as well as to share with them his gospel of salvation from sin. Not one of us is any better than another, save for the blood of Jesus given on a cross for our sins so that we might be delivered from slavery to sin and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven – all by God’s grace alone!

The Result (vv. 44-48)

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

The result of Peter’s obedience was that the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. This means that those who heard the gospel believed in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives. Thus, they were crucified with Christ in death to sin, and they were resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” which is the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. When we believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes within us to dwell, to empower, and to counsel, lead, guide, direct, inspire, convict, urge, encourage and to teach us what Jesus taught when he walked the face of this earth.

Yet, if Peter had ignored the Spirit’s voice, and if he had held fast to his prejudices, and if he had not gone with the men to Cornelius’ house, he would not have had the blessing of seeing this family come to faith in Jesus Christ. The same is true with us. When the Spirit speaks, thus, we must heed what he says, we must go where he sends, and say what he wants us to say, and trust the Lord with the results. This means dying to our own flesh, and learning to love others with the love of Christ in the way that Jesus loves us so that he can use us to demonstrate his love to others.

Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Give Him Your Fears

Thursday, November 24, 2016, 9:38 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Be Strong and Take Courage.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 9:19-31 (NIV).

Background (Summary Acts 8:1-9:19a)

When Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews, Saul was there giving approval to Stephen’s death. Then, a great persecution broke out against the church. Saul was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. One day Saul was on his way to Damascus. If he found any men or women there who belonged to The Way, his goal was to take them as prisoners back to Jerusalem.

Yet, on Saul’s way to Damascus the Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road. He blinded him with a light from heaven. Then, he spoke with him, and he told him that he was to go into the city and that there he would be told what to do. So, Saul did what the Lord told him. Then, the Lord sent Ananias, a disciple of Jesus Christ, to Saul to restore his sight (physically and spiritually), and that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ananias was concerned about going to Saul, though, because of what he knew of him, but the Lord told him to “Go!” He said that Saul was God’s chosen instrument to carry his name to the people of Israel, to the Gentiles and to kings. The Lord said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Jesus is the Messiah (vv. 19b-22)

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

When Saul was a persecutor of Christians, it was because he truly believed they were in the wrong, but not just wrong, but that they were blasphemous against his God, as was their Lord Jesus Christ. He saw Jesus’ followers as a threat to the Jewish faith. I am convinced he was deeply concerned that they were spreading lies and that those lies might lead some Jews astray from their sincere faith in Almighty God. Saul was a devout Jew, and zealous for his God and for his faith, and he was doing what he thought was right in order to protect his faith from being infiltrated by liars and deceivers.

But, Jesus got his attention, and he changed his heart. And, he put him on a different course. Although Saul had been an instrument of hatred and of destruction to the saints of God, he was now an instrument of righteousness and of salvation to Jew and to Gentile alike. Whereas he had previously attacked those who trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives, now he was preaching Jesus Christ crucified, risen from the dead, and as our Savior (our deliverer) from sin. Once he believed that Jesus’ claims as to who he was were blasphemous, yet now he unashamedly proclaimed Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and the promised Messiah of the Jews.

We read in Acts 26:16-18 concerning Saul’s calling of God (of Jesus), which also describes for us the essence of the gospel of our salvation:

“Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

This is exactly what Jesus did with Saul (later called Paul). Not only was he a servant and witness of the gospel, but he had his own eyes (physically and spiritually) turned from darkness (sin, deception) to light (truth, righteousness). His life was turned from the power of Satan to God, and he received forgiveness of his sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy, purified) by faith in Jesus Christ. So, he didn’t just preach it, but he personally experienced it. So, he could testify not only with his lips, but with his lifestyle. Those who had known him could see the drastic change which had taken place in his life, which was of the Spirit of God.

They were Afraid (vv. 23-30)

After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, several things may happen to us, some of which also happened to Saul. We should, if we have truly been transformed from darkness to light, face immediate opposition and even rejection, even from those closest to us, and even from those within the institutional church who claim to know Jesus, but who probably know him not. Our friends and companions, if they were comfortable with our previous way of life, probably won’t like the changes, and they may accuse us of being “hyper-religious” or of being “goody-goodies” or by whatever terminology they might find useful to describe their displeasure with the lifestyle change we have chosen for ourselves. Some of them may turn on us, too, and may even help to plot our destruction.

If we had previously been a persecutor of Christians or if we had taken a strong public stance against the Christian faith, the believers in Jesus might also be hesitant to accept us as one of their own, so we may feel rejected on both sides, and we may feel all alone, stuck somewhere in the middle. Or, if we had lived a sinful lifestyle for a very long time, and if we had faked our Christianity and had lied to people, other believers may be hesitant to believe that we have truly had a change of heart, so they may need some convincing. So, if others are slow to believe you, you should be patient with them, and allow them time. Talk is cheap if it is not followed up by actions, so they may need to see, in lifestyle, that you have truly changed.

Give them time, for we live in a time when there are many liars and deceivers who fake Christianity for evil purposes, as wolves in sheep’s clothing, in order to infiltrate the church, to spy on her freedom, and to destroy her. If you have faked your Christianity, and if you have used that as a cover-up for deception and for indulging in your own sinful pleasure, then don’t be surprised if people don’t immediately embrace you. Again, be patient with them. Trust yourself to the Lord, do what he tells you to do, rest in him, and let your lifestyle be what reveals to others that your faith is now genuine and not fake, and that you are no longer using your “faith” as a means to trick, manipulate and use others for your own advantage.

And, if you are the one who has been on the receiving end of such treatment from those who are against Christ and who are persecuting you for your faith, or from those who have faked their Christianity for evil purposes, but who really are wolves in sheep’s clothing, out to destroy the church, don’t be afraid. Trust your life into God’s hands, fear no human or what he may do to you, and keep on keeping on in your faith and in sharing the gospel of salvation so that many may be saved before Jesus returns for his bride. God has allowed this in your life for a purpose, and he will bring good out of it. He is absolutely sovereign over all things, and he is in total control. So, just keep trusting him, and keep being who he made you to be.

And, then, if one of these wolves in sheep’s clothing, or one of these persecutors of Christians who are taking human lives should actually have a heart change, and they should turn to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, don’t fear them, but do be wise and discerning, and pray, and ask the Lord to show you if their faith is genuine, for again, there are many liars and deceivers who will try to trick believers into accepting them as one of them in order to infiltrate our ranks to spy on our freedom in Christ, but in order to destroy us. They serve as spies to report back whatever they see and hear. So, be wise, be discerning, but don’t be afraid. Trust God in all things, and let him lead you into all truth.

The Fear of the Lord (v. 31)

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

I don’t believe that is where we are now in history. The church in America has enjoyed a time of relative peace from persecution for some time now, but that is all changing. So, don’t be easily persuaded or fooled by those who call themselves Christians, or by those who say they are Jesus’ followers, for there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing who are out to destroy the church. Their message is one of unity, but not unity with Christ and with his teachings, at least not with the bulk of his teachings. Their message is one of unity with people of all religions and all walks of life. They preach (speak messages of) the importance of the people of the world removing all which divides us as the people of the world. Well, the gospel divides. And, they call for us to all have a shared purpose and common objectives (resolve), and to speak as one voice with one heart.

So, don’t be fooled by them, but also do not fear them. Instead, walk in the fear (honor, value, reverence, respect) of the Lord. Obey all that he tells us, and follow him wherever he leads you. Don’t ever compromise your faith!

Be Strong and Take Courage / Don Moen

Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way…

Why don’t you give him all of your fears?
Why don’t you let him wipe all of your tears?
He knows, He’s been through pain before
And He knows all that you’ve been looking for

Collective Action

Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 4:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 9:1-2 (NIV).

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

This past Friday, November 18, 2016, there was a letter printed in the Akron news from the mayor of Akron (Ohio, USA), Daniel Horrigan. In the letter (1), he spoke much on the subject of division (nationally and locally). He talked about the results of our national election, in which Donald Trump was purportedly elected as our next president of the USA in a fair election. And, he verbalized some of the people’s concerns and fears with regard to what kind of leader Donald Trump will be for our nation.

As well, he addressed some of these concerns to the president-elect himself. He urged our new President to reach out to all Americans, and to “show them that there is no room in our United States for misogyny, racism, bigotry and hatred and every other ‘ism’ that attempts to divide us as a country.” He said, “We will never be able to improve our economic and social prospects if we value individualism and exclusion over shared responsibility and collective action.” And, he also said, “We must never forget that there is more that binds us than divides us.”

Collective Action (BusinessDictionary.com): “Behavior or actions of a group working toward a common goal. When individuals engage in collective action, the strength of the group’s resources, knowledge and efforts is combined to reach a goal shared by all parties.”

Does any of this sound familiar to you? It should, for President Obama and Pope Francis have been preaching the same message for multiple years now.

In fact, the first year Obama was in office he gave a major speech in Cairo, in which he expressed similar thoughts. The title of his speech was “A New Beginning,” (2) and it was very telling. In the speech he stated that our enemy is religious extremists, and that there was a partnering (collective action) of 46 countries to come against these religious extremists. He said, “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”

He said that all of us have a responsibility to work for the day when “the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.”

Continuing on with his speech he stated: “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance…” “This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive.” “In fact, faith should bring us together.”

“I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There’s so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country — you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world. All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort — a sustained effort — to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.”

“The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth…”

And, in his UN Speech of 2016 (3), he said, “And so I believe that at this moment we all face a choice. We can choose to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration. Or we can retreat into a world sharply divided, and ultimately in conflict, along age-old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion. I want to suggest to you today that we must go forward, and not backward.” “This leads me to the third thing we need to do: We must reject any forms of fundamentalism, or racism, or a belief in ethnic superiority that makes our traditional identities irreconcilable with modernity. Instead we need to embrace the tolerance that results from respect of all human beings.”

Tolerance: “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own” (dictionary.com); “sympathy or indulgence (lenience) for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own” (merriam-webster.com).

Do you see where all this is leading to? This isn’t just about not treating badly those who are different from us. This isn’t just about being kind and loving towards others who have different beliefs or color of skin or national origin from us. This is about permitting and accepting all walks of life, all sinful behaviors, and all religions as viable (feasible, workable). And, if we don’t, then we are being tagged as “religious extremists” and as bigots, hate-mongers, intolerant, dividers, and as those who “value individualism and exclusion over shared responsibility and collective action.”

In other words, we are headed towards some serious religious persecution in our nation if we do not unify with and accept as viable all religions and all lifestyle choices, i.e. if we do not reject our Lord Jesus as the only way to heaven and to God Almighty, and if we do not reject the gospel of our salvation, as was taught by Jesus and by his NT apostles.

The Pope, in a recent talk said that he was against “hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn” (4). This sounds good on the surface, but there is a catch to it all lying underneath. For, this includes the gospel of our salvation which judges sin, divides people by saved and unsaved, opposes evil, and condemns those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives. We, who preach this gospel, are thus classified among those who judge, divide, oppose and condemn, because we confront sin, call for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and we warn of divine judgment, yet promise hope and healing for the repentant.

The pope’s goal (and Obama’s, and the goal of other political leaders in our nation and world, in collective action) is to bring the people of the world together as one, into a one-world religion under the authority of a one-world totalitarian government (See: Revelation 13). They all (in collective action) speak much about the necessity for all of us to embrace tolerance of all religions and all walks of life, as well as they speak much on the subject of removing all which divides us. Well, the gospel divides us.

So, this is about ridding the world of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of its messengers (religious extremists, i.e. fundamentalists). These leaders are working together (in collective action) to come against us (See: Psalm 2; Ac. 4:25-26). So, get ready for some serious persecution of Christians – of Christ’s servants and messengers – in the days to come here in America.

All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.

When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.

Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.

(1) http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/akron-canton-news/mayor-of-akron-dan-horrigan-pens-letter-to-people-of-his-city-and-donald-trump

(2) http://joeduck.com/2009/06/04/president-obamas-cairo-speech-transcript/

(3) http://time.com/4501910/president-obama-united-nations-speech-transcript/

(4) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pope-francis-warns-virus-polarization-race-faith/